In this write up read about the man for whom science, art, engineering, architecture, warfare and nature seamlessly inhabited the same space – a space that needed to the probed into and studied and understood – for they were all connected. Each discipline free flowing and seamless, they were all separate and beautiful but intertwined in a lover’s embrace.
He sat long hours in a cafe each day. And wrote fervently. Notes on varied topics. Sometime several topics all in one page. Sometimes you would find a to-do list with myriad tasks ranging from Cannons, wall construction, studying the sun, ice skating, optics, and one particular bullet point stating quite casually , “Draw Milan”.
Yes, if you haven’t guessed as yet – Leonardo Da Vinci – The quintessential renaissance man who was a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor, military engineer and draftsman —With a curious mind and keen intellect. Da Vinci studied the laws of science and nature, which greatly informed his work. His ideas and body of work have influenced countless artists and made Da Vinci a leading light of the Italian Renaissance.
Of course, while most of us know of his painting, the much acclaimed Mona Lisa and the last supper few us know about his notebooks. It is said that he walked around with a leather bound notebook hanging from his belt and made notes ever so often and “whenever something caught his eye,” he would make a note, or begin “sketching furiously”. “It is useful,” Leonardo wrote, to “constantly observe, note, and consider.”
In these books, spanning nearly 7200 pages and 20 volumes, we can see that in Da Vinci’s head everything was connected. He made sense of the world by observing and questioning, studying and analysing but more importantly by making connections and drawing inferences form one to another. He was one of our oldest systemic thinkers.
Nature as a whole was alive for Leonardo, and he saw patterns and process in the microcosm as being similar to those in the macrocosm. He frequently drew analogies between human anatomy and the structure of the earth, between muscles and gears. For him, understanding a phenomenon meant connecting it with other phenomenon through a series of similar patterns. When he studied the proportions of the human body he compared them to the proportions of building in Renaissance architecture. His investigations of muscles and bones led him to study and draw gears and levers, thus interlinking animal physiology an engineering, patterns of turbulence in water led him to observe similar pattern in the flow of air or sometimes became the flowing locks of hair of a beautiful woman in one of his paintings.
This ability to interconnect observations and ideas from different disciplines is something that we can take a leaf out of and apply it in our own complex work and family lives. It helps us understand that everyone and everything is part of a system. Each person in a team influences and is influenced by the system. Each team member’s role and contribution, however small helps to hold up the system as a whole. As team leaders it may be well worth it to understand the interconnection between the various departments and verticals of our organization.
As thought leaders we may benefit from understanding the interconnections between our organization and other organizations within our industry and even outside of our industry. Just like I read somewhere that it was mathematicians (and not biologists) who are studying fireflies to understand their system of coordination and the patterns they create with their flashing lights and these learning’s are being used in the telecom industry to create better models for radio signals. Connections are everywhere, we just need to open our eyes to it and it will in turn open new horizons.